BENEFITING: Esperanza International Foundation
EVENT DATE: Sep 15, 2011
PAY IT FORWARD
Has anyone ever given you a helping hand that ended up changing your life? Maybe your parents worked nights and weekends to send you to college. Maybe a mentor provided you with seed money to start a business. If you have been blessed by the kindness of others, here is your chance to "pay it forward" by helping a complete stranger who could really use a break in life....someone who is poor but willing to work hard to make it on their own. Please donate to this worthy cause and I will personally ensure that your money serves its intended purpose. If you have the time, you can even join us in the Dominican Republic and work directly on this project.
Our goal at this point is to reach people living in extreme poverty and provide them with the support they need to start and run a successful business. Since we can't be in the DR full-time, we decided to partner with a well established Microfinance organization called Esperanza. Esperanza will provide our borrowers with business as well as life skills/health education and training on a regular basis. Many of our entrepreneurs are women and so the extra benefits they will receive include things like pap smears, basic immunizations, and prenatal care. Esperanza will also use their proven method of administering the loans and provide us with program updates and statistics. A loan officer/educator will meet with the borrowers twice a month. The idea is to make this program self-sustaining so that your donation is truly an investment in making the world a better place and not just another hand-out.
Any amount is greatly appreciated because we have found that as little as $150 (U.S.) can launch a business that will support a family that is living in poverty. Please please do not feel compelled to donate out of guilt or obligation. That is NOT what this is about. We do this out of joy and love and we want you to have the opportunity to get involved only if you really can and want to help. We appreciate your prayers more than your money...but we are grateful for the latter as well. If you would like to make a larger donation ($500 or more), please mail a check to Mustard Seed Funding c/o Ed Kim, 10305 Cavanaugh Ct. Rockville, MD 20850. Please make it payable to "Esperanza International Foundation" and write "Mustard Seed Funding" in the memo. Esperanza is a 501(c)(3) and we will provide the documentation you need for tax purposes. For more modest donations, please use your credit card and donate through Crowdrise, which charges a reasonable transaction fee....but it is well worth it to be able to leverage social media and to share our story with you.
WHAT IS MUSTARD SEED FUNDING?
Mustard Seed Funding provides microfinance capital for a non-profit project that supports entreprenuers in the Dominican Republic. Last year, we raised $5,000 and launched a pilot program that has been very successful. We disbursed 10 loans to people who started new micro businesses. These loans ranged from $150 to $1,000 U.S. to be paid back over a 12 month period with interest. All but one of the borrowers have been making timely monthly payments. Of the 10 borrowers, 3 have accelerated and paid back the entire principal amount already. Two of these successful entrepreneurs have taken out additional, larger loans to expand their businesses. The pilot program was a success and lives have been transformed!
Picture #1 - Meet Claribel who is wearing a black blouse with a white collar and standing next to me in the goofy hat. Claribel desperately wanted to stop gambling and playing the lottery. She straightened up her life, started attending church regularly, and prayed for a way to support her family. During our week long seminar, we mapped out a plan for Claribel to start a "beauty salon" in her town of Los Montones. We are not talking about anything fancy. It was basically two white plastic chairs on a 8'x4' concrete slab at the rear of her shanty house. With the money we lent her, Claribel purchased shampoo and hair coloring in bulk. She then sold these products in smaller quantities and offered a hair washing and tinting service, whenever water was available...which isn't always. Within 8 months, Claribel paid back the entire principal and qualified to receive an expansion loan for double the original amount. Claribel is now able to send her kids to school, which is nothing short of a miracle.
Picture #2 - Meet Jose who is standing next to his wood carvings display. Jose had an existing business selling jewelry to tourists but the market was saturated and he needed to do something about his declining sales. After attending our seminar, Jose came up with the idea of expanding his product offering to include unique wooden souveniers. He found a good source and negotiated favorable pricing. With the loan proceeds, he ordered his initial inventory. He now sells twice as much in wood carvings compared to jewelry. Within 8 months, Jose paid back the entire principal and qualified to receive an expansion loan.
Picture #3 - Meet Jira and her brother Ridell who are next to me in the seating area of the Belen cafe. Jira was running this sandwich shop for the local church and had an arrangement where she would earn a modest salary. The church only opened the restaurant 1-2 days a week. After attending our seminar, Jira came up with a business plan where she would take over the operation and pay rent in an amount that exceeded what the church was making in profit. Jira opened the business 3-4 days a week and added new food items to the menu. Although this was successful, Jira was savvy enough to start a new outdoor vending business which was even more successful. Within 5 months, Jira paid back the entire principal. Although she qualified to receive an expansion loan, she did not need it. Instead, her brother who is confined to a wheelchair came up with his own business idea. Ridell decided to sell cell phone minutes "by the slice" to those who could not afford a cell phone of their own. This business is flourishing and Ridell has made all of his payments on a timely basis. His next move is to sell internet access "by the slice" using a laptop and aircard.
Picture #4 - This is a picture of our first seminar which was held near San Pedro. We spent hours upon hours working on business plans and helping people fill out loan applications. We did this in the evening and everyone was so energized....even after spending all day working in the sun.
Picture #5 - In April of 2011, my business partner Ted and I made a special trip to the DR to learn more about Esperanza. The 3 young ladies standing next to us work for Esperanza. Check out www.esperanza.org
Picture #6 - This picture depicts a microfinance meeting. You can see the business owners counting their money and making loan payments. The meeting starts with the taking of attendance. Then the group says a prayer and sings a song or two. This is followed by the loan officer providing some business and/or health training. After a Q&A session, the business owners proudly make their loan payments which are recorded in a log. This is definitely NOT a welfare program!
Pictures #8 -11 These are pictures of my family in the DR. When I tell people that we go to the DR every summer, they routinely ask "What resort?" When I tell them we go there to do mission work, the response is always "that is so wonderful that you serve the poor like that." The fact is....our family has been so blessed by these trips that we actually get more out of the experience than the poor people we are helping. It keeps us grounded and grateful for life the Lord has given to us. Of course we still enjoy going on vacations....but the time and resources that we dedicate to these projects provide us with lasting joy and fulfillment.